The optimal way to remotely watch Netflix with friends

With many European and American cities in quarantined coronavirus lockdown, the world’s hottest club is now the internet.

Or, more specifically, streaming services. 

In lieu of the ability to spend time together physically, people are finding creative ways to watch shows and movies with their friends by streaming the same thing at the same time and chatting about it through text or video chats.

A boon for this co-remote streaming effort is the genius (and free) Chrome browser extension Netflix Party. The extension enables everyone in a group to watch a show or movie on Netflix in sync. So your entertainment of choice will start up at the same time as the rest of the group and, if someone pauses the stream, it pauses and resumes for everyone. It also has a chat roll on the right sidebar so everyone watching can also chat about it (through typing) in real time. Here’s a detailed explanation of how to install and use it.

The chat function is where Netflix Party could use an optimizing hack. I recently watched Jerry Maguire with a group of about a dozen friends. Chatting in the side bar was really fun. However, I did feel some pressure to say something funny or have a packaged text reaction to present to my friends. It felt almost too much like being on Twitter all day, which is what I at least am trying to de-stress from. Plus, other than typing “hahahahaha,” there’s not really a way to just laugh together.

So I present to you a way to take your Netflix Party game to the next level. It will require another computer or phone, restraint, and your willingness to look kinda dumb.

  1. Use Netflix Party to watch a show with friends. Its automated syncing is totally crucial for the remote stream hang. But only use it for the syncing capabilities — not so much the chat.

  2. Get a second device — whether a laptop or a propped up phone. Then, start up a group video chat that enables multiple participants using Zoom, FaceTime, or Google Hangouts, for example.

  3. Place the video chat device in front of you so that the camera is pointed at you. Now, you are all watching each other watch the movie, hooray! (This is the slightly embarrassing part since we probably don’t all look our best while watching a movie at home. But, verisimilitude, people!)

  4. Make sure everyone is on mute, so there’s not a crazy amount reverb happening with sound from the movie. 

  5. If you have something to interject — for example, “Damn, I can’t believe they gave Tom Cruise an Oscar, but Renée Zellweger wasn’t even nominated!” — you can unmute yourself. This might be kind of annoying if you’re watching with some “true cinephiles” since it’s fairly disruptive. But c’mon, the point is to watch a movie with friends, not watch a movie like you’re in the theatre. 

  6. If there’s a funny part happening? Go on and everybody unmute. It’s good to hear your loved ones laugh.

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